Fields in Tsunami-Damaged Aceh Could Take Up To Five Years To Recover
JAKARTA, Indonesia Farmers have started replanting some fallow fields in Indonesia's tsunami-devastated Aceh province, but it will take up to five years to rehabilitate the hardest-hit areas, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday.
The Dec. 26 massive ocean waves destroyed rice paddies, chili patches and coconut groves as far as 7 kilometers (4 miles) inland, and agricultural experts estimated early on it would take two years or more before anything would grow in the damaged soil.
Some farmers -- especially on the province's eastern coast -- started replanting rice, peanuts and other crops and defied expectations with reports that some yields are higher than before.
But on the west coast, the FAO estimates that 17,400 hectares (42,995 acres) of land were severely affected and 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres) have been completely lost.
"In terms of physical rehabilitation, we may be looking at a very substantial time," said Bart Dominicus, coordinator for FAO's tsunami response program. "You may still be talking from three to five years in the most severe cases."
Salinity of the soil has become less of a concern, he said, since much of the salt water was washed away during heavy rains. But many fields are still covered with sand, sediment and other debris that will have to be removed before any planting begins.
Irrigation systems, too, will have to be rebuilt in many areas.
"You're dealing with physical damage to fields and this is in form of sediment deposits," Dominicus said.
"You have considerable layers of sand on top of clay. It will be difficult to remove it. It will either have to physically removed or, if the layers are thin enough, they will have to plowed in and mixed in the top soil."
Dominicus said the damaged fields of rice -- a staple crop in Aceh -- has led to some diversification, with farmers shifting to beans, peanuts and even horticulture.
Others are moving their operations to the interior, he said, with more land potentially being farmed in the wake of the peace deal between Achenese rebels and the government signed earlier this month.
"With progress in the peace process, there may be land available in the interior for resettlement," he said.
Source: Associated Press